Warplanes: Iraq Gets Some Interceptors Real Quick

 November 2, 2012: The Iraqi Air Force is buying 28 Czech L-159 jet trainers. This is also a light combat aircraft that also serves (when equipped with two seats) as a trainer. The L-159 was developed by the Czech Republic in the 1990s and only 72 were built. Iraq is buying some of those that the Czech Air Force could not afford to buy (and have been sitting in storage for the last 6-7 years) as well as 24 new ones. Iraq will have several L-159s in use by early next year and these will be the first jet fighters Iraq has had in service since 2003.

The L-159 is an eight ton, single engine aircraft that can carry up to 2.3 tons of weapons. Max speed is 936 kilometers an hour, minimum speed is 185 kilometers an hour. Endurance is about two hours. The L-159 is equipped with combat (air-to-air and air-to-ground) radar but cannot operate at night or in bad weather.

Using guided missiles and smart bombs, the L-159 is pretty effective at ground attack. The L-159 can carry heat-seeking air-to-air missiles and, depending on the skill of the pilot, be effective against older jet fighters. More importantly, such an L-159 would be able to force misbehaving commercial aircraft to land. Iraq has 36 American F-16s on order, but the first of these will not arrive for at least three years.

Iraq is paying a billion dollars for the L-159s. This includes training, maintenance equipment, spare parts, and lots of bribes. (The L-159 normally sells for less than $20 million each or $30 million if you include training, maintenance equipment, and spare parts.)

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